"Memorialis" is Latin for "serving as a reminder." The past two weekends have been filled with moments that have reminded me of how fortunate I am. They've been crammed with so many joyful experiences-- events that I would not have lived to see without my donor. In this post I examine what these past two weekends would have been like for my wife and son if my donor hadn't given me this second chance at life...
Without my donor, my wife puts my son in his Spider-Man costume to take him to his first comic convention, not because she want to go, but because she knows that I would have wanted him to go... I had been waiting to go to my first one with him, once he was old enough. Despite and because of his infectious excitement, she tears up as the two of them arrive.
Without my donor, my son's debut as a hockey goalie requires my wife spends half an hour watching YouTube videos of "how to put on kid's goalie gear" and practicing several times at home. Once at the rink, she ties his skates to his pads and wishes I were there to help double check the gear. The numerous photos and videos of him stopping shots are captured with one camera instead of two.
Without my donor, my wife takes my son camping, nervously navigating the roads northward because she's hauling the trailer. Camping last year without me had been "the test," and she was so grateful that it went smoothly. She's been camping since before her first birthday, and my son began just after he turned one. As she makes the campfire, she is glad she took over that job back when my lungs wouldn't allow me to do it.
Without my donor, my son's late-blooming ability to ride a bike independently is achieved through my wife's remarkable patience. She can't understand how a kid who can ice skate so well struggles so much to balance on his bike. But when it finally clicks, it's like he's been doing it his whole life, and my wife remembers that it took me until I was eight years old to learn. Apple, tree.
Without my donor, my wife spends another wedding anniversary without her husband. It is no easier than last year. She realizes that May 22nd will always sting a little, and her mind is a maze of "what ifs..." for much of the day.
Without my donor, my wife drives past a Marathon gas station with my son and he immediately recalls the origin of the word-- "somebody was late to work or had to deliver a package so he had to run 30 kilometers without stopping." She asks him how he knows that. He says, with only a tinge of sadness, "Dad told me." That silence, the one that hangs over moments when a loved one, recently lost, is spoken about, pervades the van for a moment. My wife wishes that I were there to appreciate how our son is following in my footsteps-- able to store generally useless trivia in his mind for years at a time.
Because of my donor, I AM there. I have been able to revel in all the moments above: the milestones, the obviously meaningful achievements, and the littlest day to day "nothings"-- which are not nothing because they are everything.
They are the life I have which I owe to someone I can never properly thank.
While I don't normally live in the mindset of this post, I force myself to on occasion because it is crucial to helping me value the past 21 months. I could not have predicted how wonderful my life would be today when I woke up with new lungs almost exactly one year and nine months ago, but I am ever grateful for each moment that has brought me here. I live my "best life" for myself, for my family, and for an individual whose life ended too soon.
This is my "Memorial Day" post for my donor. While I know Memorial Day is reserved for individuals who gave their lives serving America, organ and tissue donors also give to a noble cause. They are not honored with a day on the calendar, but by the extended and improved lives of their recipients. I am my donor's living, walking, breathing memorial. Some day I hope to tell my donor family that face to face.
Until then, and for always, their sacrifice serves as my reminder to be grateful and embrace all of life's moments, big and small.